Nebraska special election illustrates the potential power of abortion issue for Democrats: analysis
2020 photo of the Supreme Court Justices.

Democrats hoping the conservative Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade will help their candidates in the 2022 midterm elections were invigorated by the results of the first congressional election since the ruling.

The rare, summertime special election was held to fill the vacancy created when Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) resigned from Congress after being convicted on three felony charges.

"Nebraska’s first election following the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion ruling offered an eye-opening glimpse of the issue’s power to drive voters and affect political outcomes," the Omaha World Herald reported on Saturday. "True, Republican State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk won Tuesday’s special election to fill Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District seat, as expected. But Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln came closer than any 1st District Democrat has done in decades. She ended up with nearly 47% of the vote in the two-way race and plenty of optimism about closing the gap to win a general election rematch in November."

The Democratic Party nominee in the district has not received more than 40% of the vote in the district since the 2006 blue wave, when Maxine Moul received 42% of the vote against Fortenberry.

Reporter Martha Stoddard interviewed Kevin Smith, chair of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science department.

“The closeness of the election was a genuine surprise to a lot of people,” Smith said. “The 1st District has not been considered competitive before.”

Both campaigns believe the abortion ruling played a large role in the closeness of the race.

Jessica Flanagain of the Flood campaign told the newspaper, “I definitely think the left was upset and fearful."

“That’s a great motivator," she noted.

Pansing Brooks campaign manager Chris Triebsch believes it's the start of a trend.

“We’re still on the front end of that momentum as people become more aware of the full impact” of the ruling, Triebsch said. “I think people are very worried.”

The Nebraska Examiner reported on a study conducted by the Flood campaign.

"Fewer voters in the 1st District’s GOP-leaning counties voted in the special election than participated a month earlier in the May 10 primary election," the newspaper reported. "Voting in each of those counties was down by at least 18%, based on a post-election analysis done for Flood’s campaign. Additionally, 3% more voters showed up for the special election in Democratic-leaning Lancaster County than voted during the primary."

Danielle Conrad, a former Democratic state lawmaker, told the AP it was a "thrilling result."

“Patty far outpaced the conventional wisdom," he said. "I don’t think anybody expected her to perform this well in such a tough district.”

Democratic consultant Adrienne Elrod told the AP Democratic groups are seeing the results as a sign of momentum.

“I think they’re going to look at this as a bellwether, in a very positive way,” Elrod said.